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December 2023

Now well into winter with activities at the track and lake giving way to those in the workshop. Throughout the season we have heard numerous plans for the building of new or improved models that can get underway as an antidote to the festive season. Already plans are afoot in many a shed or grander facility for the refurbishment or restoration of items that have been obtained during the year, which will inevitably lead to the ever present dilemma of how much to do? One of our regular correspondents has a hydro that has been repainted at some stage losing its original name, registration and colour. The new owner wants to return it to the state it was when the original builder ran it, and to this end we have been able to provide period photos to allow this to proceed. The same person has obtained a boat from the 1930s that has been through several hands and he is equally determined to restore it to how it was, if he can find sufficient information and period parts. In this case, restoration is necessary, but for the later hydro, it is a personal choice of the new owner and this is where the dilemma manifests itself.

We have recently seen a lovely, original and unusual British tethered car, built and run in the early 1950s. From then until 2019 it was in its 'track fresh' condition, used but no damage, and paintwork as you would expect after nearly seventy years, a lovely patina. Having been sold, it was then subjected to a massive make over, the pan and body completely refinished and repainted in colours it never was, original decals removed and a totally spurious race number added. Now it is unlike it was at any stage in its racing career and all evidence of its previous life, gone forever. Was this a route that was acceptable, yes to some, no to others, including ourselves.

We have a fairly radical view when faced with this situation, only do what is absolutely essential, but it is interesting that a model car or boat presented in a concours condition that it never was, is more valuable than one that is still original. We find this slightly strange as we are more concerned with the history than making money. If you have inherited a basket case or a barn find that looks like the barn fell on it, then there is little choice and we have had a few of these along the way. We were lucky enough to see what is probably a unique tethered car in the Spring. The design was most unusual and from an exceedingly well known engine builder and racer. The car was as it was last used, which both the owner and we agree that it how it should stay, but one can easily imagine that if it came onto the market that it would be repainted and polished to within an inch of its life, losing the immediate connection with the builder. Each owner will have their own view on how to tackle a new project that will vary anywhere from the two extremes of the restoration scale, but from our, admittedly biased point of view, what is lost or destroyed can never be put back.

The Pitbox item is something of a mystery as it was not supposed to exist, but here it is, and with a motor that we knew about but had never seen until three have turned up in recent months.

Lots of feedback from Oliver's Ramblings last month regarding setting up engines. We know from our limited experience how vital this is and what a difference it can make to performance, without any other significant alterations. What we also discovered on our first ever foray into the world of tethered car racing is the lengths competitors go to to clean their motors after every run. Complete strip down to the last screw, cleaned meticulously, polished as required, more cleaning and then reassembled. It is notable how many motors at the BMFA auction were noted as 'stuck', which if you are on the other side of the Atlantic means seized, rather than just gummed up. Pick up a tethered car motor, even one that has not been run for sixty years and it will turn over freely. Compare this with a motor that passed through our hands on its way to a new owner. Better just check it, and it was tight, so back door off and a sea of oily, rusty water and unidentifiable crud spilled on to the bench, urgh, what a mess. Even this paled besides a boat engine that had not been used for ten seasons or more that had an equal amount of sludge inside, but much more rust, and it had been sold in that state?

A few gleanings from other publications that we felt were worth passing on, starting with success for someone well known to many of us Lauri Malila who has added a world Championship with F1 gliders to his already impressive array of trophies for F2B control line aerobatics. Frank Waddle who is another enthusiast who combines tethered cars with F2b finished 6th in the finals of the World Championship, but what was even more remarkable was, that of the 15 finalists, he was the only person using IC power. A sad reflection of how the traditional disciplines have struggled in Britain is that we no longer have the facilities, infrastructure or personnel to run International events in the UK and that even getting teams together is becoming more difficult. Even more disturbing is the total lack of junior talent in any of the long established disciplines. Michael Schmutz was spot on when he addressed the FEMA delegates meeting. If we, collectively, do not encourage and attract new entrants into our particular interest, then we could well be the last generation to enjoy the hobbies? Gone are the days of eliminators, qualifying competitions and team selection, more a case of 'is anyone prepared to go'?

After a great deal of work and consultation, Oliver Monk has now finally completed the final version of the regulations relating to BTCG activities at the Buckminster track. These cover the classes that will be run, cars appropriate to each class, guidance on building, chassis, fixings, bridles etc. For the first time, there are also regulations that cover the electric class to be run in the UK. If you are considering building a car or want to check where your current cars fall within these regs, then please contact Oliver at  buckytcar@btinternet.com or OTW otwmedia0@gmail.com for a copy. Thank you to Oliver for producing these.

Oliver has also been busy adding more material to his previous Ramblings that deals with the important aspect of glow plugs and something most relevant to Buckminster, traction and wheelspin.

Difficult to work out why the M&E Challenger that was far from original and with an ED 2cc motor lodged in it should sell for £6,600 hammer price, yet at the same auction house, an absolutely complete and original M&E Special with a Stentor in the back should go for just £2,300. There was a real rarity in the same auction, an original ED aircar.

Readers of Aeromodeller will already have seen the prototype of a 40 sized engine that has been entirely 3D printed in aluminium. 3D printing has been used before for producing components, concepts for motors and cars or as we saw on the webinar to produce the form to make a casting. If this is successful then producing one offs and development models will be even easier as no dies or patterns are needed, reducing costs even more, although how long it would take to print a crankcase or the cost was not revealed, technology moves on relentlessly.

Unfortunate news from Canada that Adrian Duncan is unwell, we wish him a speedy recovery.

Empty Spaces: Peter Rischer. The 2004 European Championships at Basel was our first foray into the world of tethered car racing where we were the only couple from the UK and not a clue what was going on. Peter went out of his way to introduce himself, welcome us and explain what was going on, which made the whole experience much more enjoyable and meaningful. David Giles has very kindly provide us with the following.

Peter Rischer – an appreciation.

Yet another of the stalwarts of the Tether Car hobby was taken from us on September 20th 2023. He had been in declining health for some time before his death.

I first met Peter at Kapfenhardt, soon after becoming involved in tether car racing; I believe the year would have been 1978. As the only native English speaker racing at that time, he enjoyed talking to me in his slightly americanised English. I found him very helpful, extremely engaging and obviously a very talented engineer, with lots of original ideas which he was happy to share.

He had had a very distinguished career in the Luftwaffe, flying the infamous F104 Starfighter. Among his many claims to fame was that he had attended the TOPGUN Instructional Course in America, where his flying skills were highly regarded.

Aside from his flying, Peter had for many years been bitten by the bug of tether car racing, having been active in the sport since 1958 and was in 1971 able to form a new club which was registered with the DMMC (Deutsche Modell Motor Club) and was within the military base (Boelcke Kaserne) at Kerpen in the north of Germany. The club was open to officers, ranks and civilians working on the base and had some 20 members. He was able to persuade the Luftwaffe to let them build a track where some 5 International Races, 4 Club Championships and 3 New Years races were held. Unfortunately, the track fell into disuse after he left the military.

Having had a long layoff from tether car racing due to work commitments and diversions into other hobbies, I renewed my friendship with Peter in 1998, and along with my partner June, it was suggested that we could break our journey to and from Kapfenhardt by staying at his home. We were always made very welcome, and it was sometimes difficult to leave to resume our journey, either to the track or onwards to home! This gave me the opportunity to spend many happy hours in his workshop, and the basement bar, talking tether cars and 2 – stroke racing engines. He was always experimenting with different engine configurations and some quite radical car designs, always ‘pushing the envelope’ and sometimes causing friction within the governing body. He built many experimental engines with various methods of supercharging, most of which were proof of concept and probably too bulky to be built into a car and remain within the maximum weight limit. He also experimented with induction systems, including drum valves, disc valves, and bell valves, also reed valves similar to those used on full sized racing engines, and seldom seen on miniature engines. He will be remembered in recent times I’m sure for his very successful 5cc cars and by the numbered batch of semi-scale Auto Union cars he produced with commercially available 4 – stroke engines.

His erudite conversation, engineering expertise and copious knowledge will be missed, not only by me, but by many tether car racers from around the world. Our new Empty Spaces gallery page has a selection of Peter's imaginative cars and engines.

November 2023

One of the great workshop delights is taking on someone else's stalled project, which, could be in any state from never started to almost completed or anywhere in between, and usually because it's cheap, the 'roundtuits' of life. Purchasing all the component parts, raw materials and everything else required to build a model can be exorbitantly expensive, yet they are often for sale in various stages of completion at a fraction of the cost of the bits, a subject we will return to in the new year. One of our acquaintances has made vast amounts of money with minimal amounts of work or extra expenditure doing just that, but why are projects abandoned or not even started? There is the 'seemed like a good idea at the time' where enthusiasm soon fades or the shear scale of the undertaking becomes apparent. Oddly, it can even be a rule change that renders the intended build, and even the completed ones redundant, never nice as they are unsaleable other than as items of interest at a fraction of their worth. Whoever takes one of these on is still faced with all the work but at a minimal outlay. The ones we find difficult to understand are the projects that are within a whisker of being finished but then abandoned. The investment in time and money has been made and a few more evenings work will at least double if not treble the original costs, so why not?

Of course, somewhere along the line the builder may be faced with the stark realisation that they have neither the skills, equipment or vital part for the next step, so another one goes on the shelf, or that it has taken so long that what was current when started is now verging on the historic. The OTW workshop alone has completed projects that have had gestation periods of twenty, thirty and even forty years and currently just finishing a couple that have sat, unloved, for fifteen or so years. Another has just turned up that was started almost seventy years ago that does not need too much work to complete. We even know who started it and unusually, why it was never finished. That the completed models will be worth a lot more than was originally invested is a secondary consideration, as it has provided many hours of enjoyment, and with something to show at regular intervals for the effort. Remarkably, the Buckminster swapmeet turned up an absolutely amazing piece of craftsmanship with all the very difficult and skilful work completed, but again, some seventy years ago after it was started and then abandoned. Happily it is now in good hands to finish what could be one of the most amazing tethered cars to emerge for a very long time?

Then of course, there is the 'cock up' that has brought many a project to a grinding halt, and we have inherited a few of these over the years at minimal cost, as the bin would be the alternative. Miscalculation and mathematical errors account for some of these, two engines grossly under capacity and one over class limits for a start. Then there is the misreading of plans or errors on drawings not picked up, possible (just) to overcome initially, impossible after the whole thing is complete and the horrible moment that it is found that it will never fit and cannot be made to either. This does not even cover the stupid mistakes, and no one is immune from them, we have had a few examples of these over the years as well, not admitting to any ourselves of course. We have just passed on a constructional article where all the photos in the original magazine have been printed in reverse, just waiting to trip the unwary or unknowing? Defeat has had to be admitted on more than one occasion unfortunately when the level of the disaster has proved impossible or unrealistic to recover and then it is off to the auction house to take its chance. One persons disaster is another's challenge, and equally we have resurrected a few along the way.

Lastly there are the 'flights of fancy' that we so enjoy, some completed, most not and the ever open question as to why anyone thought it would ever have been a good idea, or as has happened, it was such a good idea that it was immediately banned. Other peoples 'roundtuits' have kept us occupied for years, ours, well mostly in the bin or sold on, mmm.

The Pitbox this month celebrates several of the above incorporated into one model. All the expensive bits there, almost complete, but never finished, why? We have our suspicions but leave our readers to draw their own conclusions.

The Market Place page was a suggestion from one of our contributors and continues to be a great success. The record for a sale has to be an email that was received before the website update was even complete. One seller reflected on the fact that he could have sold his item several times over and thanks to erroneous captions in Mr Clanford's tome, a wanted advert produced an engine that the the buyer had not asked for from a seller that thought he had what was required but did not realise it was another model entirely. Not for the first time that the two 1066 engines have been confused, but in this case both buyer and seller were happy with the outcome.

Another double header weekend  with the Midlands Model Exhibition at Leamington and the SAM Octoberfest at Buckminster, the last tethered car event of the season at the track that has seen so much activity over the summer. The SAM event is combined with the swapmeet, which can always spring a few surprises, and this year's was no exception with two superb and original cars turning up. What was glaringly obvious again was that there was far too much 'stuff' on sale and much of it at far too high a price. Just on thirty example of the very same engine on various tables and even more of them on ebay and at the BMFA auction, where is the market for all these? As for aircraft, if everyone present bought one, there would still be no apparent gaps and with three more engine collections currently being sold, saturation point has surely been exceeded several times over? The final entry in our Observer book of huge and slow moving agricultural vehicle was a Case Delta Track 620, ten up on the Versatile 610 from earlier?

Update: We are delighted to have an update on the Wilma article from Raimondas  Kochanauskas who has pointed out errors in our assumptions about the name and given us the true derivation. The article has now been amended with this new information, thank you Raimondas. If anyone can add anything further to the story of these cars, we would be most grateful. We are still interested in when the first ones were built?

Return of 'The Ramblings': Delighted to have another of Oliver Monk's  'Occasional Workshop Ramblings'. This month he deals with what we consider to be the single most important element in getting a car or boat to run effectively, setting up the engine. A process that we all have to go through and so much easier when it is set out, with appropriate figures to work to. The process works equally effectively with hydro engines, although the exhaust duration needs reducing somewhat, no horser on a hydro lake. It is well worth taking the time to read through Oliver's previous Ramblings as there is so much useful information, tips, and tools as well as an insight in to all the projects he has undertaken over the years.

Final foray of the season to Buckminster for the Autumn engine auction. Very efficiently organised for both bidding online and from the floor. As usual, miniature diesels and replicas were making good money, original motors not doing so well and the mass produced commercial sparkies and small diesels, oh dear. Another auction is already planned for the 6th-7th January at Buckminster. As of yet we have had no confirmation regarding Gildings auctions, although we know that there have been some very rare and desirable items already consigned.

October 2023

This month completes another year of publication of OTW and the happy realisation that the lifeblood of the site, the new items and material, keep on coming. A bit like projects really, the bench begins to look a bit bare then something comes along to fill the gap, and often a lot more besides, for which we are exceedingly grateful. Our list of contributors continues to grow, providing items and articles along with material that provides the impetus for in house articles. This has provided us with important information, references, photos and details to allow the publication of several major articles over the year, Mats Bohlin, Pioneer Electra, AMRO, along with a number of smaller articles and updates. Our contributors have also provided some fascinating articles on builds, restorations, histories and discoveries that have provided new material month after month, so thank you to them. Race and event reports, along with some spectacular photos, help keep readers informed as to what is happening during the season and we know just what a lot of work these can be to put them together when time is of the essence. What never ceases to amaze us (and others that we are acquainted with) is how frequently items appear that either we did not know about or contradict established knowledge and printed records. A set of 1066 wheels and tyres turned up on ebay with no evidence that they were ever produced by the company, but there they were, whilst the mystery of the ED Fireball still lingers on. It has been an absolute pleasure to have unsolicited contact via the website from enthusiasts around the world who have offered further help and information on subjects we have covered, which in turn leads to even more material.

On a less happy note, we have had to report on the demise of a number of car, hydro and engine enthusiasts, some of whom were regular contributors to OTW and will all be sadly missed. Others are unfortunately suffering on-going health problems and we wish them well. It is never good news when a revered publication that has been part of the scene for so many years disappears from the scene, but advancing years has meant that both a standard reference work and a regular journal are no more. The loss of another hydroplane lake, the cessation of activities at Gt Carlton and threats to a number of international tethered car tracks are all cause for concern, as venues continue to be whittled down. The loss or retirement of so many collectors and enthusiasts in a relatively short space of time has resulted in an absolute avalanche of material coming on to the market, and whilst the cars and boats can probably be absorbed, the huge volume of engines can never be accommodated.

Following the relaxation of the rule banning model flying in 1944, the end of the war in 1945 and the massive growth in running tethered cars, the demand for model engines was huge, leading to a large number of small manufacturers setting up businesses to satisfy the market. Sadly, most of these were short lived, although the maker of this Month's Pitbox item did last slightly longer than most.

The Photo came from an era when cables were less reliable with cars and boats 'coming off' on a regular basis. Gerry Buck's famous 2 became the even more famous 2A after a line break had deranged it severely. A number of ill informed captions, one in an international museum and others in two recent magazine articles, talk about 'string' being used as a tether, and for a while, that's just what it was, but not for a very long while but the perception still exists.

Our Retro Retrospective possibly reflected the trend experienced in many other areas that the interest in using the style of models from the 40s and 50s is waning? This could well be linked in a way to our major article as we witnessed some of these 'vintage classes' where modern, ultra high performance motors are being used in models that predate the motors by 60+ years and far larger engines than the models were ever designed for. As the September date was still in our calendar we made a nostalgic trip up to Great Carlton to meet up with Peter and have a last look at the track. The journey did provide us with a timely reminder of the delights of the A47 and A16 and a final entry into our Observer book of huge and slow moving agricultural machines. What a humdinger this was though, a Versatile 610 Delta Track pulling a 5metre TBW (whatever that is). A massive 300 horsepower, half a million quid plus and its very own youtube video, our biggest and best ever.

Our major articles are usually based on a great deal of authoritative material and some photos to illustrate it all. This article has been the result of trying to make sense of a large number of examples of a commercial tethered car that have appeared for sale recently. It has taken us into the fraught realms of classes of cars for juniors and beginners and attempts to resolve issues and control the concept over the last seventy years. It also harks back to the thorny subject, much in the news this summer, of the rules and the 'spirit of the rules'.

A very long weekend ending at Old Warden for the Modelair event. First stop was a lifelong collector who produced untold gems for us to pore over and photograph for future editions before becoming embroiled in the perpetual traffic jam known as the M25. Old Warden was a haven of peace and tranquillity by comparison, which was somewhat unnerving as there was a marked dearth of flyers on the field and large gaps in the trade and swapmeet line. Even more strange was that another change in focus at OW meant that we needn't have paid to get in at all? Many notable absentees, which sadly brings into question the whole concept of these events? Indeed a conversation amongst a group of traders revolved around this very subject with them questioning whether it was worth dragging the same stock to event after event and selling very little, or if there was a better way to whittle the stock down? We have often remarked that there are far too many engines available and this conversation revealed that even more are coming on to the market in the near future, but outlets are limited. It was even suggested that there should be monthly engine auctions, probably a sure fire way to ensure plummeting values, but as another collector/trader of many years pointed out to us, if you want/need to sell now, you just have to take what you can get. Yes, there will still be engines that command high prices, but for most of the mass produced, commercial motors, it isn't going to happen. Perhaps consignment to an auction and taking whatever you can get is less stressful than consigning to a skip? Amazingly though, espied on our jaunt was another Versatile 610 Delta Track, had it made the long, road journey from Lincolnshire to Bedfordshire or is there more than one of them?

Last meeting of the season at Buckminster for the Tether Car Group, although it nearly didn't happen as serious cracks had made the track unrunnable. Sterling work by Oliver, Nigel, Lynn and Hugh the previous day and at silly o-clock on Saturday ensured that the event could go ahead as planned. Lots of cars, old and new and 100+mph runs now quite regular. Oliver arranged a fun, sprint contest for the Saturday that produced some surprising results. Those on the car track faired far better than the flyers who lost an entire day again through winds deemed too strong.

Market Place has come up trumps this month with a remarkable selection of cars, all ready to go. A twinshaft that could be the first to break the 100mph mark at Buckminster, a delightful diesel to take on the Olivers, an eminently collectable and probably unique Movosprint and a blast from the past, a super looking Meccano Constructor Car. Not a tether car as such but highly sought after by collectors, especially in this condition.

Commercial corner: Continuing the theme from above, as we do try and keep up with what is happening in the world of car and boat sales. However, even we were shocked when recently alerted to what must be the most expensive British commercial tethered car ever sold, beating the previous highest by a considerable margin. A heavily restored and far from original M&E Challenger with an ED Penny Slot lurking inside sold at a UK auction house for an astounding £6,600. With commission, and tax plus online bidding fees it cost someone nearly £8,500. This is similar to the previous best, also for an M&E, but that was the much rarer Austin and the figure was in dollars. A couple of vintage hydros also took a lot of people by surprise at over double the estimates.

Empty Spaces: No one involved in the world of model engines and control line flying will not be aware of the name of Ian Russell and his Rustler Engines company. Ian was involved in the commercial production of model engines for nigh on forty years, initially with Merco and latterly with Rustler. He was for a while, part owner of the Merco concern and retained rights to use the name on his Rustler Merco CL stunt engines that he produced. More recently he was commissioning runs of reproduction engines from the Ukraine, in particular Oliver single ended motors along with Jaguar and Tiger twinshafts. These runs sold out very quickly and are now difficult to find and can command a premium, if you can find one. One of his final ventures was a project to have Nordec and Rowell replicas built on a subscription basis. Whilst six or so can be built profitably, if it is a continuing production, getting sufficient interest to commit to a completely new run of engines proved a step too far. We know little about Ian's CL pursuits other than that he was heavily involved with CLAPA, but of late he had shown an interest in tethered cars, but applying his own thinking to the design of them. Unfortunately this never got beyond a concept before ill health overtook him. He was a regular visitor to Buckminster, even after his terminal diagnosis when he was actively trying to sell off his collection to raise money for his family. There are others much better informed to write appreciations of Ian, but it was a pleasure to know him and we send our deepest condolences to his family.

September 2023

After a round trip of 1200 plus miles to Basel for the European Championships we were amused, or was it amazed, when we were informed that lovely though Buckminster was, it was too far to travel to. This has also been cited as a reason for not going to Peter Hill's track, Old Warden, Kingsbury etc. At present there is the cost element to consider, but for us, nowhere is too far if it can be fitted in logistically and the event is one we want to go to, or have previously visited and found the experience enjoyable and worthwhile. When we were working it had to be possible to get there after work on a Friday, or exceedingly early on a Saturday morning and then back before the witching hour on a Sunday, unless there happened to be a convenient holiday? This would include trips to Holland, France and Germany as well as domestic journeys. If the calendar worked out, then it could be four weekends on the trot, 450 miles, 500 then two 600s, including ferry crossings.

In the past we have published photos of the lengths that some would go to in order to get to a meeting, two boats under the arms and trains to every part of the country and even into France. Bruce Harris, his namesake Ted Harris along with Jim Hampton travelling hundreds of miles on motor cycles and Ron Thrower with his cars in a trailer behind his bicycle. Buses, trams and even horse drawn charabancs were regular means of transport for those attending London regattas before car ownership became the norm. Hydro regattas were as far a field as Newcastle, Birkenhead, Bournville, Coventry, Cerney, Southampton and all stations between, yet competitors would regularly attend events at all these, far flung, locations. It is difficult to imagine making the same trip to Switzerland that we did this July over seventy years ago with no motorways or autoroutes and cars having to be craned on and off the ferries individually? Ian Moore, Jim Dean, Ken Procter and Jack Cooke, amongst others, would make regular trips to the Swiss tracks and then beyond into Italy to race at Monza. Even earlier, George Stone made the trip to Geneva by car to race his hydro.

From the late 60s onwards British hydroplane enthusiasts would travel into Europe, including the East, to compete, where the transit and onward travel was a real adventure and somewhat nerve wracking at the best of times. The traffic was not always one way either as teams from the East used to travel into the west, and to the UK in an aged bus that must have covered millions of miles in its life time. Roland Salomon tells of how he hitched from Switzerland to the UK in 54 for the European Championships as the only affordable way of getting here. More recently a group from the SMCC have in turn visited Lithuania, Poland, the US and Australia to run cars, whilst Bulgaria was the destination for hydroplane enthusiasts this August.

Too far only becomes an issue when enthusiasm for an event or destination wanes, and even then it is only one entry in the reasons not to go column. Imagine driving from the UK through Holland, Germany and Poland into the Ukraine, only to be told that your event was cancelled, that might well blunt the enthusiasm a tad, but too far, no, only if you don't really want to go.

Pitbox has an example of a rare commercial car that is not a toy but neither is it intended for serious racing, so we guess it comes under the category of 'a big boy's toy'? It also produced an entirely unexpected connection with modern racing when we found where the motors in the car were manufactured.  Antonio Della Zoppa has kindly sent details of the unusual hydro we featured in the July Pit Box that he built back in the 1970s.

A full report from the 72nd European Championships for tethered cars has had to wait until this month as it took place on the very last weekend in July and there was the small matter of getting home from Switzerland, as outlined above. What an incredible meeting though and a wonderful example of what a relatively small group of people can achieve with determination and cooperation, along with huge amounts of work. A plus was all the items for sale, new and old, and the selection of vintage cars and engines to pore over.

Back up to Buckminster for the Tether Car Group August meeting. Tesco petrol station is having to be visited on a far too regular basis at present, but surprisingly fuel here is so much cheaper than on the continent where pump prices changed on a daily basis, and by as much as 10cents. Great weekend's sport and the most varied range of cars ever seen on the track. Competitors are getting too good at the nominated speed game though with errors now in the 1/100ths of mph and three with less than 1mph error.

Having never seen an AMRO or FRIRO motor in real life, this summer has been a revelation as we have been lucky enough to have had seven examples produced for us to look at and photograph, including a couple with amazing provenance. The latest addition has been added in another update to the AMRO article we published earlier in the year.

Busy over the next two months with regattas at Kingsbury and Hall Farm, the final Modelair meeting of the year at Old Warden on the 16th 17th, and the Tether Car Group Finale at Buckminster the following weekend. October has the final regattas of the season, the Midland Model Exhibition from the 12th and SAM Octoberfest with the giant swapmeet at the weekend. October finishes with the 3rd BMFA model engine auction from Buckminster so please check our Calendar page for details. More visits to Tesco petrol station?

Empty Spaces: Mike Drinkwater

We were saddened to hear, somewhat belatedly, of the death of Mike Drinkwater. Throughout his long involvement with tethered hydroplanes he campaigned and worked tirelessly to get the airscrew hydro accepted as a racing class, whilst developing untold versions of these craft. The 'hydro glider' as they were called had been around since the 1930s but Mike was determined to make airscrew boats a viable class for racing, to such an extent that they were banned from competition by the MPBA in 1964. The ban was subsequently lifted in 1967 as NAVIGA had adopted the B1 airscrew class for 2.5cc motors. The continued development of hulls and motors that were shared with F2A speed flying led to the fastest of all hydroplane classes.

Mike continued to run airscrew boats until ill health brought his sixty year long career to an end. He kindly wrote several articles about his involvement and designs for OTW that illustrate his dedication and enthusiasm.
Our sincere condolences to his family.           

Thanks to Norman Lara for passing us this news

August 2023

Another 'skin of the teeth' publication due to racing activities many miles away. Full report from the 72nd European Championships next month, but what an amazing event? So much hard work prior to, and at the event by the SMCC. Goes to show that tethered car racers are like fine wine, they mature with age, Jan-Erik Falk adding yet another championship to his tally that started in 1961, believe it or not, and yet another 2.5cc title for Torbjorn Johannessen. At the other end of the scale, congratulations to Aaron Monk for his 5th place in 1.5cc. By chance, the event also resulted in a detailed update on the unusual hydro that we featured in July's Pitbox  where we met the original builder, and again, this will be included next month.

The following was written just before the unfortunate news of the total ban on IC engines at Victoria Park and the first 100+mph runs by an electric aircar at Buckminster, so becomes even more pertinent?

The UK government appears to be hell bent on its plan to ban the sale of IC engined cars in the not too distant future, buoyed up by the vain hope that the technology, infrastructure and generating capacity will be in place in time to support it all. Of course, none of this is in place currently, and whilst electric, steam, IC and more esoteric form of propulsion have existed alongside each other for well over a century, the IC engine in its various forms has reigned supreme. As we have seen of late though, in terms of absolute performance the new generation of electric vehicles is hard to beat, whether full sized or in model guise, although they all suffer the same limitations. Cost, reliability, range and a general understanding of how they work mitigates against them, and as of yet, nowhere has the danger and recycling aspects been successfully addressed. Whether there will eventually be a move to ban model IC engines on environmental grounds remains to be seen, although methanol and castor oil should be acceptable by any criteria, but kerosene, paraffin and petrol might struggle. Noise has been a stick to beat all types of model activities with for many years and that will not go away, but for many, it is an intrinsic part of the activity.

Electric power, although already well established in modelling disciplines and here to stay, is far from quiet but no one can deny the performance available from what LBSC used to refer to in the ME as milliamp. Things have moved on, and now the amp, and lots of them, knows no bounds. The electric model and IC model can no longer be compared on any level, and in the case of tethered cars and hydros, the only commonality is now the maximum weight and maximum speed allowable on any particular line. Herein though lies a very practical difficulty as the IC models show only tiny increases in performance whilst the electric ones have yet to find any realistic limits, if there are any? The conundrum then is whether to reduce the weight limits dramatically for electric cars and boats on a particular line or run the risk of having to have ever thicker lines on a regular basis as speeds increase, plainly untenable.

In a way, the use of electric power has come full circle in around 100 years and is now catered for by the BMFA, MPBA, NAVIGA, EFRA, AMRCA, along with other national and international organisations. Given the adoption elsewhere, it seems appropriate that guidelines and rules for the use of electric powered tethered cars should be established in the UK. This would guide anyone considering going this route and avoid models being built that are either unsafe or do not meet any workable criteria. As we have already seen, the speed potential of even the most basic electric car means that the cars will have to be built to modern technical regulations and standards and run on FEMA standard cables. In the US there is a Nostalgia class, similar to our Retro, so whether the guidelines should include this option with commensurately lower speeds is open to discussion. What is not open to discussion is that electric cars introduce a whole new level of safety requirements in terms of specification and operation. We have seen both electric hydros and electric tethered cars on fire, and as the emergency services are at pains to point out, once they are burning there is nothing that can be done to render them safe. Some unfortunate and even tragic events during the summer have made this a major consideration. It may not be your bag, but electric tethered cars are here to stay so should be embraced, just wish we understood all the terminology and mathematics?

The Pitbox introduces another, previously unknown, aspect to the history of the Nordec, along with plenty of conjecture, but as yet no facts.

The forecast for the weekend of the July BTCG meeting at Buckminster was dire, yet, in spite of this it was probably the best attended yet, with a vast selection and variety of cars. Much else around the country was cancelled, but those that made the journey enjoyed as much running as they could possibly want.  Mike Francies had a prototype of a car that may well be a way forward for those that want to move away from a twinshaft and diesels that has full suspension but does not require a commercial gearbox or any complex machining.

On a less than happy note, it is clear from this and the previous SAM meeting that attention must be given to fuel tanks, venting and fuel feeds to ensure that the fuel stays in the car and does not end up on the track. It is time consuming and expensive to keep cleaning the track and should not be necessary. If it's your car, please fix it.

During our foreign foray the reports and result have come in for several hydro regattas and these will be posted shortly, so please call back in a week or so. All of those who know long time hydro enthusiast Norman Lara or follow him on facebook will be well aware of what befell him recently. No words can describe the true depth of devastation and loss that he suffered but we do offer our sincerest commiserations.

The speedmodelcar.com site is now being frozen and the official FEMA website from now on will be www.speedmodelcar.org

July 2023

In the neck of the woods that OTW resides in, there are a couple of expressions that are in common use, which give some clue as to the way the natives behave and think. Hospital medical charts often bear the initial NFN (normal for Norfolk), which is far from complimentary, but it is the expression that they 'do different in Norfolk', which also applies far beyond the bounds of that County. In the world of models, someone always has to be first, either copying from full size practice or coming up with something original. From then on one of two routes could be taken, copy an existing model, either improving on it or not as the case may be, or employing a bit of lateral thinking and come up with something different, never the easiest option. Although immensely more powerful and sophisticated, the 'moteurs explosion and vapeur' that we use currently are essentially much developed versions of their 19C counterparts. There have been other power sources that have found favour elsewhere, turbines, rotary engines, jets and more, and whilst they have all been experimented with in tethered models, have not been adopted, either because they were not good enough or banned for some reason. Turbines are now freely used in model aircraft and power most American unlimited hydros, but banned in car disciplines.

If a builder was stuck with a basic power unit, then there was no limit to the ingenuity expended in 'doing something different' with what surrounded it, and here we must admit to a fascination with many of the unconventional designs that have emerged over the years. Whilst most of these may appear oddities and never get beyond the experimentation stage, they do have a habit of being revisited, like the 'sidewinder' engine installation. Originally, boat engine were so big and heavy that they had to lie down yet it never found favour with modern engines. Tethered cars builders were a bit more adventurous with how and where the engine was mounted, with many variations on the theme, that produced some very unusual looking models, some of which stretched interpretation of the rule book to the limit and beyond. None of these however proved significantly better so that every car on the track now is similar to every other one. It did seem in the late 40s with the quantum leap in speed by George Stone that the catamaran or tunnel hull would become the standard for tethered hydros, and while it experienced huge success in full sized practice and does so to this day, faded quickly from the tethered scene.

Just occasionally, an 'alternative approach' may be brought about through expediency, such as the 'plate' or 'plank cars that were popular for a while and even now, making a comeback in modified form with the advent of CNC machining. Cars fabricated from stock materials have been around, almost since the first car was built, but are suspect for the more powerful motors. The arrival of the tuned pipe resulted in some ingenious and fascinating solutions for accommodating them until front exhaust motors became available. So whilst not necessarily for the purists, these 'flights of fancy' hold a fascination for us.

This brings us to this Month's Pitbox with not one, but two variations on the theme of how to mount a rear exhaust motor in a boat or car. Judging by the fact that neither were finished might give us a clue as to the desirability of each?

For the first time since 2019, our Spring Tour was able to go ahead without any restrictions but with two, previously reluctant, cars to try and sort out. Happily, the appalling forecast proved to be way wide of the mark, not a drop of rain in two weeks and temperature well up compared with the UK. Even better, the two cars were persuaded to play, always makes a trip more worthwhile.

After nearly a month of overcast weather with temperatures never getting above 15C, the prospect of a 'plume' and 30C for Buckminster was a trifle unsettling. We don't do heat, but at least we had the cool hangar to take refuge in, whereas the jet flyers on the field were gently baking. It is always jaw dropping to hear them talk about the cost of their planes and the running costs for a day. Tethered car racing is a much cheaper option without the same level of jeopardy either. The best turnout of the year so far for the BTCG June meeting with new cars and owners appearing all the time.

A blisteringly hot weekend at Buckminster for the SAM Retrofest, both on and off the track. The involvement of experienced aeromodellers  has changed the concept of the aircar completely as the clock hitting 97mph briefly for John Goodall demonstrated. Unfortunately TR tanks are just not big enough as John discovered. Later, vintage speed exponent Tony Goodger suffered the same fate as his car was way over 100mph before spluttering to a halt. Refuelled and one hairy launch later it was away again with the button pressed while it was still accelerating, but soon enough to ensure it completed the run at 106mph, the first ever 100+mph run with an aircar at the track and a large round of applause. Roger Gedge has produced an all electric aircar that was also no slouch and a possible indicator of yet another avenue of exploration?

Important update on the future of the Gt Carlton Raceway: Peter Hill made the decision to schedule his June track day at Gt Carlton to tie in with the SAM Retrofest so that people could combine the two, which we did. He made the reluctant decision, that unless support for his track increased, he would probably call it a day. Unfortunate, as Gt Carlton was a reality whereas all the other possibilities were pipe dreams and never came to fruition. The track in Lincolnshire enabled the running of cars in the UK to continue for over a decade. The Retro Club and Peter's two tracks must take a lot of credit for the interest in tethered cars that exists in this country. Sadly, the lack of response has resulted in the cancellation of the remaining track days for 2023 and the unfortunate news that there will be no more Retro Club events at the track. We thank Peter for providing us with a track to run our cars, which he did entirely at his own expense. Many fond memories of the garden party atmosphere and a few nerve wracking moments, especially when the OTW aircar lit up unexpectedly leaving the track record at a shade over 86mph.